by Cori Hilsgen
Barbara Howard has opened a new shop in St. Joseph and is itching to do some stitching.
Through “Alterations by Barbara C.,” Howard will stitch a seam, sew on a button, alter an outfit, create a new outfit and will do many other fashion apparel changes that people want or require.
A resident of the St. Joseph area, Howard grew up in Wisconsin, the youngest of five children. Howard says her parents grew up in the “Great Depression” era and knew how to be frugal, so she was always getting hand-me-down clothes. She said this was a helpful start to her alterations/sewing business.
Her parents, Irvin and Beatrice, are now deceased, but Howard said they sighed with relief when she told them she was going to be a tailor. To them that was more practical than saying she was acquiring a degree in apparel design.
Howard’s brothers and sisters live in Wisconsin and Texas and she is here in Minnesota with a couple of furry friends. She said her cats named “Bubbles” and “Blacky” seem to always be hungry when they are not sleeping.
Howard earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse and received her master’s degree in apparel design from UW-Stout in Menomonie, Wis. Before doing professional tailoring, she owned a cleaning service and did some seamstress work as a side business.
Twenty years ago, after discontinuing her cleaning service, Howard began doing professional tailoring. She started working with Dayton’s/Marshall Field’s/Macy’s in St. Cloud in 2000 and was also an alterations supervisor at several locations, including that store.
Howard said she was fortunate to have trained and worked with several master tailors and other extremely talented seamstresses who passed their knowledge to her.
“One woman, who I worked with at Marshall Fields, was the mother of 13 children and she was not afraid of anything,” Howard said.
She said she believes her experience of working for Dayton’s/Marshall Field’s/Macy’s taught her the high-quality standards of work and service this area of the country is known for and familiar with.
Because of her background in apparel design and alterations, Howard said she is able to offer customizing of clothing and pattern adjustments and development. Besides the everyday alterations such as jean hemming, clothing repairs and button replacement, Howard can also do master tailoring on suits for men and women, bridal wear and pageant competition design and construction.
“Alterations by Barbara C. is my way of offering to the community, here and in the surrounding area, that level of quality and service I was trained into,” Howard said. “I also like to have fun, so I have done occasional theatrical and re-enactment wear, and intend on offering that service as well to my clientele, especially Renaissance/Medieval wear.”
Howard also enjoys doing some hand embroidery, but does not do industrial embroidery.
Howard’s business will be open during standard hours, but she will also offer “appointments only” time on Mondays, Saturdays and evenings. She offers these appointments so customers, such as brides who wish to receive her full attention during their fittings, will not be interrupted.
“Distractions for major alteration fittings is a great disservice to everyone involved,” Howard said.
She said her average turnaround time for sewing alterations is usually three to five business days. Special projects require more time.
“I want people to be satisfied with what they leave with,” Howard said. “The best compliment would be for customers to refer someone else to me.”
Located in the St. Joseph Newsleader building behind the St. Joseph Meat Market, “Alterations by Barbara C.” will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and by special appointments. Howard can be contacted by telephone at 320-310-2024.
“Alterations by Barbara C.” offers alterations, tailoring and theatrical re-enactment wear services to clientele. Howard shows green velvet a customer is trying to locate for a “Scarlet O’Hara” gown. The customer has Barbara Howard check different that she will use for alterations and other sewing projects. Howard recently opened a new alterations and tailor shop called “Alterations by Barbara C. She said she has acquired eight yards and still needs to find 10 more yards before Howard can sew the gown. Howard said it is an on-going project.
Barbara Howard makes adjustments on a beaded, stretch velvet dress. The detailed beading consists of pearl and sterling silver beading.
Barbara Howard works on a jacket she is altering for a customer. “Alterations by Barbara C.” will offer many different alterations and tailoring services.